Aldea and Lupulo chef George Mendes brings his Michelin-starred Portuguese cuisine to the masses! Read our interview with the chef, and try your hand at a few of his favorite dishes, fresh from his cookbook: My Portugal. Mendes has mastered the art of tomato rice. You may never cook rice in regular water again.
The most important step in this classic recipe is buying really ripe tomatoes. Better yet, pluck them from your garden if you’ve grown them. There are layers of tomato flavor here — from the “stock” of tomato water to the sautéed dice scattered throughout the rice. I love this on its own or with a nice piece of grilled fish.
- 8 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 fresh bay leaf, notches torn every 1/2 inch
- Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
- 3 tablespoons prepared refogado or sofrito
- 2 cups Cebolla brand rice (or substitute other paella rice)
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, very finely chopped
For the rice
Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Slit an “x” in the base of two of the tomatoes and drop in the boiling water. Let sit for 10 seconds, then transfer to the ice water. Drain and remove and discard the skins. Transfer the seeds to a blender; cut the flesh into a ¼-inch (6-mm) dice and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Coarsely chop the remaining six tomatoes and add to the blender along with a generous pinch of salt. Puree until very smooth. Set a large sieve over a large bowl and line with a clean kitchen towel. Pour the tomato puree into the towel, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The liquids will strain through. You need 4½ cups (1 L) tomato water.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved diced tomatoes and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the excess moisture evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, bay leaf, and enough oil to make the mixture sizzle. Cook, stirring gently, until the mixture looks concentrated, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Heat an ovenproof 12-inch (30.5-cm) paella or sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom, then add the refogado. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the rice and 1 tablespoon oil. Continue stirring until the rice is toasted and hot to the touch, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of the tomato mixture and spread the rice evenly in the pan. Let it cook for 2 minutes, then gently stir in 2 cups (480 ml) of the tomato water and a generous pinch of salt. Spread in an even layer and adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes.
Gently stir in 2 cups (480 ml) more tomato water, scraping up any rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt. Spread in an even layer and simmer until the rice is almost al dente, about 15 minutes. You don’t want to stir the rice and release its starches; that will make the rice gummy.
Pour the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) tomato water into the rice. Transfer to the oven and bake until the rice is al dente, a light brown crust has formed on the bottom, and the tomato liquid is creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.